In experiments with rodent and human cells, co-authors Mingxuan Xia, Ph.D., and Hartmut Land, Ph.D., explored how the Rho family of proteins, which are involved in cell movement, and thus in the progression from benign to malignant cancer, are controlled by two well-known cancer genes, p53 and Ras.
By closing in on this deadly collaboration, researchers showed for the first time why some molecules such as Rho are targeted by cancer genes ?and how they might lead to a promising way to intervene against cancer.
"We have very little understanding of how Ras and p53 or any other potent gene mutations cooperate to cause malignant tumors," said Land, who is professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Genetics and scientific director of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "But we have suspected for a long time that the way to develop rational searches for new drug targets is to first understand how these oncogenes cooperate. And in this study we've shown for the first time that this idea might work."
Land was among the scientists in the mid-1980s who first discovered oncogene collaboration. Since then, his work has focused on the complex interplay necessary for malignancy. And while other researchers, for example, are seeking ways to normalize a faulty gene such as p53, which is involved in half of all human tumors, Land's research group is taking the opposite approach. They are looking for ways to stop tumors by interfering with features of cancer cells dependent upon p53 and Ras mutations.
For cancer to develop, several mutations must arise and col
Source:University of Rochester Medical Center